Hello! My name is Miguel Gonzalez, and I am rising junior at Duke. I am majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Pharmacology and minoring in Biology and Neuroscience. This summer I will be doing an Independent Project at the Colombian Foundation of Center for Epilepsy and Neurological Diseases (FIRE) in Cartagena, Colombia. In this area and along the coast, the disease neurocysticercosis is endemic. Neurocysticercosis is a parasitic infection that affects the brain and, if left untreated, can lead to epilepsy. The main mode transmission is through undercooked pork and produce that has not been properly washed. These larva eggs first make their way into the intestine and then travel to the brain through the blood. Once lodged there, it creates little holes and the location of them determine the manifestation of seizures. However, most of the time, this disease is asymptomatic. My work with them with heavily focus on further investigation of neurocysticercosis in the clinic and in Colombia in general.
I got to Cartagena last Sunday, and it has been an amazing week so far. My first day I was welcomed with open arms by so many people. I had the opportunity to learn more about the foundation and their specific work that has had an effect domestically and worldwide. The clinic is much larger than I expected, and it is engulfed by trees and a lake with iguanas, birds, and other tropical creatures. During my first week, most the time was spent familiarizing myself with all of the different areas of the clinic and trying not to get lost. I also met with my resident sponsor and the Neurologist that I will be working with. We have been reading and discussing the current literature and acquainting ourselves with ongoing studies. I also had the opportunity to sit-in and personally listen to patients that are suffering from this parasitic infection and current methods used for diagnoses. One of the most interesting parts has been the ability to look at actual resonance images to see the affects neurocysticercosis has on the brain.
I am very excited to continue investigating and gathering data to hopefully bring awareness to this Neglected Tropical Disease.